Before we are Koreans, Canadians, Americans, or any other nationality, we are Earth beings. That concept is central to my philosophical teachings because understanding this ultimate identity is the only way to transcend some of the challenges we currently face. But how can we grow beyond our limited sense of self to truly embrace being a child of Mother Earth?
One way is to place ourselves in direct communion with the elemental earth. Of course, we mean something different when we refer to the planet Earth than when we speak of earth as soil. Yet, the two are not unrelated.
The element earth is, in fact, the primary substance from which the life-giving surface of the planet is made. And, it is a powerful foundational element—growing the trees that create wood, directing the waters that flow as mighty rivers, and forging the metal that lies buried within it. Ultimately, everything, including we humans, are dependent on the life-giving sustenance that comes from the dirt beneath our feet.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
If possible, find a pastime that allows you to get your hands in the dirt, perhaps by tending a garden, keeping houseplants, or making pottery. These activities can become meditations in and of themselves if you let your mind empty and allow yourself to be completely swept into the present moment.
As you participate in these things, feel love and gratitude for the Earth well up in your heart. Feel the sensation of the soil on the palms of your hands, absorbing its living, nurturing energy. Allow the mundane worries to fade from your mind, and feel the tensions in your arms and shoulders being soaked up into the earth. Just as the soil can take death and decay and turn them into new life, it can take your worries and sorrows and use them for growth and rejuvenation.
Earth Element Meditation
Choose a favorite place to hike, somewhere in nature where you can walk quietly for at least 20 minutes. The trail should not be overly challenging or steep; a fairly well-kept, slowly meandering trail is best. If you carry a pack, it should not be too heavy or uncomfortable. Make sure you have proper shoes and hydration, too. You may walk with others, but only if they are willing to allow you quiet time without conversation, or, better yet, they can practice this meditation along with you. Here’s what to do:
- Begin to hike as you would any other hike, but avoid chit-chat with others. Enjoy the feeling of quiet solitude, and allow your cares and worries to leave your mind. Let the rhythm and sound of your footsteps to lull you into a kind of alert trance—fully awake and active, but totally relaxed.
- Once you have achieved a relaxed walking pace and a quiet mind, extend your hands out slightly from your body with your elbows bent and your palms facing the ground. Feel the sensation of earth energy on your palms as you walk, rising up through your arms, shoulders, and head. Continue walking as this energy fills your chest and heart.
- Now, feel the energy of heaven entering your body through the energy point at the top of your head. Allow the energies of both earth and heaven to circulate through your body in a continuous circle. If you like, repeat to yourself as you walk, “I am the child of heaven, and I am the child of earth.”
- When you conclude your hiking meditation, shake your arms and legs for a minute or so. Sweep down your arms and legs with your palms, ridding yourself of any remaining tension.
Connect with the Earth Regularly for Joy and Awe
An important ideal I teach from Sundo, the Tao philosophy of ancient Korea, is “Chun Ji In.” Literally translated, that means “heaven earth human.” This refers to the fact that human beings are both of the earth, with animal senses and drives, and of the heavens, with divine spiritual potential.
On the spiritual path, it is a mistake to forget or reject the earthly realm. We are divine beings with souls, yes, but we are on this planet for a profound, earth-bound spiritual experience, and taking care of the Earth and our physical bodies is part of that journey.
We are meant to find balance in our body and mind between the two polarities of heaven and earth, just as we seek balance between yin and yang. So, please connect with the Earth regularly, just as you would seek to connect with heaven through prayer, contemplation, or meditation. It is your birthright as a child of the Earth, and I know it will be a source of joy and awe whenever you do.